The Gringo trail.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Chile  ,
Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I am back into Chile, after a five days wait and 12 hours beautiful bus ride over the Andes from Salta (I gave Tupiza with it's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid surrondings a miss for now). I'm in the tiny dust bowl town of San Pedro de Atacama in order to check out Salar de Atacama, El Tatio geysers (apparently the highest geyser field in the world at 4300m) as well as Valle de la Luna. Another reason I'm here is because San Pedro de Atacama is one of three gateway towns (the other two are Uyuni and Tupiza in Bolivia) to Salar de Uyuni and the beautiful lakes, volcanoes and altiplano in southwestern Bolivia.

If Salta was somewhat touristy, then what about San Pedro de Atacama? Compared to it's size, it's probably one of the most touristy places I have been to on the entire trip. The whole town seems to be one large backpacker magnet. There's other tourists here as well of course, but the biggest amount seems to be colorful low budget scruffy looking backpackers with dreadlocks and flip flops (it's a fashion statement I guess, possibly a rebellious one, but still a fashion statement ;-) There's backpackers all over Latin America, but now I am definitively on the Gringo trail (consider it being high season as well). As you may know, there's a well established Gringo trail that snakes it's way all over this continent. And if it may be just a narrow path in some countries and areas, it's more like an eight lane freeway from here and heading north towards Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.

San Pedro de Atacama is pretty expensive, as it more or less caters only for tourists, located as it is among some awesome scenery. I spend a few great days doing the touristy things and excursions. Like getting up at 4AM in order to reach the spectacular El Tatio geysers around sunrise (you need to as it's the only time you will be able to see the fumaroles). I also visit Laguna Chaxa, within Salar de Atacama, with it's three types of flamingo (James, Andean and Chilean), Lagunas Miscanti and Miñiques, Quebrada de Jere, Pukará de Quitor, as well as watching the gorgeous sunset over Valle de la Luna. And then I got lost in the maze of Devil's Gorge around sunset, mountain biking with four extremely friendly guys from Chile (in one blog entry I think I said that I found Chilean people a bit difficult to get in contact with, but after meeting lots of nice chilenos in Pucon, Santiago, Easter Island and here, I guess I was wrong again). Lets say it was an adventure finding our way back out in the dark.
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